Michener Center Presents Reading by America’s “Pugilistic Poet” August Kleinzahler

member_image_13229290248615022461Acclaimed poet August Kleinzahler will present a reading at a campus event hosted by the Michener Center for Writers on Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

 

Kleinzahler’s impressive body of work is a hybrid of high and low influences, mixing street-smart language and articulate cultural references with his unique brand of hard-boiled whimsy. His outsider stance has also gained him a reputation as a literary bad-boy, the “pugilistic poet,” duking it out with both pop culturists—somewhat famously, Garrison Keillor, over his folksy “Good Poems” anthology—and academics alike. Kleinzahler’s literary fame has built steadily over four decades.

 

He published a handful of poetry books with independent presses before New York publisher Farrar Straus & Giroux picked up his 1995 “Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow.” They have published his last six books, as well as revived earlier work in new editions.  

 

Kleinzahler won the distinguished Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2004 for “The Strange Hours Travelers Keep,” and his new and selected poems, “Sleeping it Off in Rapid City” (2008), was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. His prose also regularly appears in the London Review of Books and Slate, among others, and he has published a volume of meditative essays, “Cutty One Rock:  Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained.” His newest book of poems is “The Hotel Oneira,” which the Guardian describes as “dreamlike yet savvy, among the most delightful flowerings of American poetry in our times.”

 

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage.

‘Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an’ Author Wins $10,000 Hamilton Book Award

Denise Spellberg, grand prize winner of the Hamilton Book Awards.

Denise Spellberg, grand prize winner of the Hamilton Book Awards.

Denise Spellberg, professor in the Departments of History, Middle Eastern Studies and Religious Studies, won the $10,000 grand prize at the Hamilton Book Awards for her work “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders.” (Knopf, 2013) on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin.

The awards are the highest honor of literary achievement given to published authors at The University of Texas at Austin. They are sponsored by the University Co-operative Society.

TJQIn “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders,” Spellberg recounts how a handful of the country’s founders, Jefferson foremost among them, drew upon Enlightenment ideas about the tolerance of Muslims to fashion a practical foundation for governance in America. For more about the book listen to her podcast on the History Department’s Not Even Past website.

Four other UT Austin professors received $3,000 runner-up prizes:

– Desmond F. Lawler — Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering, for his work “Water Quality Engineering: Physical/Chemical Treatment Processes,” co-authored with Mark Benjamin, University of Washington; Published by John Wiley & Sons

– Huaiyin Li — Department of History, for his work “Reinventing Modern China: Imagination and Authenticity in Chinese Historical Writing”; Published by University of Hawaii Press

– Allison E. Lowery — Department of Theatre and Dance, for her work “Historical Wig Styling: Volumes 1 and 2”; Published by Focal Press/Taylor and Francis Group

– Mark Metzler — Department of Asian Studies, for his work “Capital as Will and Imagination: Schumpeter’s Guide to the Postwar Japanese Miracle”; Published by Cornell University Press

The Hamilton Awards are named in honor of Professor Robert W. Hamilton, the Minerva House Drysdale Regent Chair-Emeritus in Law. Professor Hamilton was chair of the Co-op Board for 12 years, from 1989 to 2001, and was in large measure responsible for the Co-op’s uncommon growth and profitability during that period. Visit this website for more about the award winners.

Lucie Brock-Broido to Speak on Campus Oct. 16

The UT Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by acclaimed poet Lucie Brock-Broido on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302, on UT campus.The event is free and open to the public.

Book Cover: Stay, IllusionBrock-Broido’s newest collection, Stay, Illusion, was a finalist in Poetry for the 2013 National Book Award.  Her previous collections include Trouble in Mind, The Master Letters, and A Hunger. Her poetry has appeared in many magazines and literary journals including The Paris Review, Parnassus:  Poetry in Review, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Nation, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, and The New Yorker. Director of Poetry in the School of Arts of Columbia University in NYC, she is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA support, and the Witter-Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Richard Pells’ War Babies Released

War BabiesWar Babies: The Generation that Changed America by Richard Pells, emeritus professor of history, was released in August by Cultural History Press. Pells examines the lives of famous Americans born between 1939 and 1945, including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

War Babies may be ordered from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1t39MPD

Read an excerpt: http://authorrichardpells.com/excerpt-from-war-babies-carl-bernsteins-memories-of-mccarthyism

A Q&A with Ecosickness Author Heather Houser

Take a look at your surroundings. Are you sitting in a climate-controlled office next to a window overlooking a sea of traffic? Or are you skimming this article on a porch swing underneath a shady oak tree? Whether you’re surrounded by wide open spaces or a concrete jungle, your environment is significantly affecting your emotional and physical well-being.

Houser-bookAuthors such as David Foster Wallace and Leslie Marmon Silko have explored this intrinsic bond with the natural world in a genre of fiction called “Ecosickness.” In a new book Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction, UT Austin English Professor Heather Houser shows how contemporary American novels and memoirs are developing a new understanding of the connections between ecological damage and physical health.

Read on to learn more about her book and how this new mode of contemporary American fiction is sparking questions about the current state of our environment—and the potential consequences of techno-scientific innovations such as regenerative medicine and alternative ecosystems.

How did you become interested in this particular literary genre?

My initial interest was in 20th-century narratives of disease. As I read a wide range of works on this theme, I began to notice many writers couldn’t talk about disease without also depicting built and non-built environments and ecological issues. I was aware of environmental health memoirs such as Susanne Antonetta’s Body Toxic and Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, but what I was finding didn’t quite fit this genre. Unlike these books, ecosickness fiction is less interested in determining the causal link between environmental conditions and disease. Instead it imagines how emotions, narrative techniques, and aesthetics bring body and earth into relation. One way I explain this in Ecosickness is by showing how recent U.S. novels and memoirs “medicalize” environmental representation, that is, how they figure space using specialized anatomical and physiological terms, often ones referring to the body in a state of dysfunction. Wallace’s Infinite Jest is a rich site for this representational strategy.

Heather Houser is an assistant professor of English at UT Austin.

Heather Houser is an assistant professor of English at UT Austin.

How can people benefit from gaining an awareness of their environmental surroundings?

To put it bluntly, the environment is us; self-awareness and awareness of social, economic, and political structures emerge from environmental awareness. For many, spending time in more natural settings and interacting with animals produce joy and rejuvenate. This is certainly an important benefit of environmental awareness. Yet even if we’d rather be inside playing video games than out swimming in rivers, we’re still embedded in our environments. The state of our surroundings affects our health, where we live, how we get from point A to point B, what we eat, and much more. Just as importantly, the environment is a repository for changing historical and social conditions; it records individuals’ and a culture’s values.

Is there an Ecosickness author in particular who inspires you?

Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead inspired the ideas for the project, even though it may be the book in Ecosickness I enjoyed reading the least. It’s challenging because of its length, huge cast of characters, loose structure and depictions of violence and depravity. It’s the most overtly political book I examine and imagines a revolution sweeping through the Americas that will destroy capitalism and colonialism and restore and heal lands expropriated from indigenous peoples.

Silko builds anxiety through a number of strategies, above all through scenes in which villainous characters use biotechnologies like genetic manipulation and artificial ecosystems to promote injustice. We might think anxiety is useful for stirring up a population and fomenting revolution; I wondered if this was the case. I asked whether, in the novel, anxiety impinges on the very possibility of revolutionary action the book otherwise advocates. Almanac was so inspiring to my research because it powerfully demonstrates that environmental scholars need to account for the full spectrum of environmental effects and study how those emotions influence our ethical and political orientations.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

A crucial takeaway of Ecosickness and my other research is that we can’t comprehend environmental challenges and their ethical dimensions through the languages of science and economics alone. We must call on aesthetic tropes, metaphors, and narratives and the knowledge they produce. Our bodies and emotions are crucial conduits to understanding and responding to environmental change. I emphasize this point in the book’s conclusion, when I describe ecosickness fiction as “an invitation to read its stories out into the world. It opens channels to the talk between policy and psychology, aesthetics and activism, education and ethics, and data and doxa that positive interventions in pervasive sickness demand.”

Could you highlight a particular message in this book that is relevant today?

One of the thrills of studying contemporary culture is that most everything I research is relevant today. But if I had to choose a message that’s most relevant both today and in the day-to-day, it’s that we must approach techno-scientific “fixes” to illness and environmental with respectful skepticism. Ecosickness authors aren’t technophobes or antiscience, and my book doesn’t encourage these positions either. I hit on the idea of respectful skepticism throughout my readings but perhaps most poignantly in the chapter on AIDS memoirs by Jan Zita Grover and Wojnarowicz and how they conceptualize discord. Grover’s and Wojnarowicz’s books show discord to be crucial to the medical politics of AIDS and the environmental politics of land development because it helps us strike a balance between trust in science and skepticism toward it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I hope Ecosickness expands our sense of what counts as “environmental literature.” When I say this is my research area, people often assume I study Henry David Thoreau or Edward Abbey. Yet environmental representation is all around us, not just in works by artists we think of as environmentalist. Those representations shape how we perceive the world off the page and govern our responses to it. Therefore, it’s important to identify unexpected environmental tropes and examine their workings and functions wherever we find them.

From MOOC to eBook: John Hoberman on “Age of Globalization”

ohn Hoberman

John Hoberman in a video lecture on EdX.org

In Fall 2013, Dr. John Hoberman was among the first University of Texas professors to offer a MOOC, or Massively Open Online Course as part of edX,a consortium with Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and other global institutions of higher education. The course, Age of Globalization was very well received by the thousands of students worldwide who actively participated.  But for those who were not seeking to earn a certificate of completion, Hoberman wanted to offer the course in another format.   Thus, the College of Liberal Arts worked together with The University of Texas Press to create an enhanced e-book version of the course, now available to anyone who wants to better understand the systems of competition that drive globalization.

The video and audio enhanced e-book “Age of Globalization” is available in multiple e-reader formats, as well as through a standard web browser.

“When academic interest in something called “globalization” first came to my attention in 1995, it struck me as a remote and exotic topic,” says Hoberman.  Over the years, he’s found it a nearly limitless topic that allows deep and wide exploration into how the world works as a collection of overlapping systems.

For Hoberman, writing the lectures and writing the book were largely one and the same thing. “Composing the lectures required doing a lot of online research during the writing process.”  For the MOOC, these lectures were videotaped short 9- to 13- minute segments, divided into twelve sections.  “I wrote the twelve sections aiming for a jargon-free clarity of presentation that suited both the video lectures and the eventual e-book text. “ The transcripts from the video production became the basis for the text of the enhanced e-book.

“I’m very glad the electronic book is available because it is undoubtedly a more efficient learning experience than watching and listening to the videos, even with the text scrolling down on the right-hand side of the screen,” said Hoberman. “The advantage of the visual MOOC experience is that the narration is integrated with hundreds of useful and instructive images such as maps and photos of all sorts of things. The e-book contains dozens of images, including some that are interactive, but watching the MOOC on screen will understandably be the more dramatic visual experience.”

Image from the Course by LAITS Development Studio

Image from the Course by LAITS Development Studio

Hoberman continues to monitor current global developments, such as various international  organizations including United Nations, NGO’s like Greenpeace, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the major international sports federations that are affiliated with it. He points to the recent 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games as an opportunity to watch globalization in action.

“The transnational IOC, which is accountable to no authority other than itself, represents itself as a peace movement that promotes human rights,” says Hoberman.  “But, in 2007, the IOC awarded the 2014 Winter Olympiad to Vladimir Putin and Russia, despite Putin’s merciless war against Chechnya (1999-2000) and his subversion of democracy in post-Communist Russia. The question here is whether a global ‘movement’ run by a group like the IOC is willing to take principled stands on behalf of ‘global norms’ that conflict with the objectives of dictatorial regimes. In fact, the IOC always fails to enforce “global norms” that represent humanitarian principles. In this case, President Putin rewarded the supposedly peace-promoting IOC by attacking Ukraine only days after the Closing Ceremonies of the Sochi Games,” Hoberman points out.

“The moral of this story is that the lofty claims of all global organizations should be carefully scrutinized and compared with what they actually do or do not do to promote the welfare of the global community.”

Hoberman’s compelling new e-book delves into the topics of Transportation, the Media and Internet, Transnational Organized Crime, Small Country Self Assertion, Popular Culture and Sports through the lens of Globalization, exposing the dramatic narrative of positive and negative forces that are affecting us all.

Follow these links to purchase the Age of Globalization enhanced e-book by John Hoberman:

Web-based ebook: http://tinyurl.com/ageofglobal
Apple iBook: https://itun.es/i6g82Qg
Amazon Kindle ebook: http://amzn.com/B00HQ50T8K
Google Play ebook: http://tinyurl.com/ageofglobal-google

Mediating the Message: Stephen Reese

As a journalism graduate student in the late 1970s, Stephen Reese said he noticed a major gap in the media and communication field. While much research emphasized the media’s effects on society, studies on factors affecting the media were rare.

Wanting to correct this research gap, Reese – associate dean for academic affairs at the Moody College of Communication and a professor in the School of Journalism – has focused much of his research since then on factors that influence the media.

Photograph of Stephen Reese

Stephen Reese

His latest research is published in “Mediating the Message in the 21st Century: A Media Sociology Perspective,” a successor volume to the one he originally wrote with Pamela J. Shoemaker in 1991 (and revised in 1996). The new book, like its predecessor, provides a framework for thinking about the factors affecting media – from the political and ideological, to work routines and organizational policy. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly called the previous version one of the “most significant journalism and communication books of the 20th century.”

1. In the book, you define a Hierarchical Influences Model, which consists of five levels. Could you briefly describe each level?

Reese: We consider five levels, starting with the micro individual level, which includes the characteristics of the individual communicator. The routines level includes the most immediate constraining and enabling structures, larger patterns, or routines within which the individual operates. The organization level is distinguished from routines in describing the influences of the larger organized entity within which the individual operates, the larger context of the routinized activities, which includes occupational roles, organizational policy, and how the enterprise itself is structured. The social institution level describes the influences arising from the larger trans-organizational media field, how media organizations combine into larger institutions that become part of larger structured relationships as they depend on and compete with other powerful social institutions. The macro social system level is the outer-most ring of the model, including influences on content from the social system as a whole. This includes ideological forces in the sense that they concern ideas and meaning in the service of interests and power – encompassing how all the other levels add up to a larger result.

2. Which level carries the most influence today and why?

Reese: I don’t conclude that any level is predominant overall, although thinking of them hierarchically often gives that impression. It’s natural to think of the more structural, macro factors over-riding the individuals who carry out their work within those constraints, but the framework simply provides a way to examine which factors seem to be most influential in any given situation.

3. How has this changed since previous versions of your book were published in 1991 and 1996?

Reese: The media have changed greatly since our original work, particularly with changes in technology and globalization. I think we could say that, in general, individual media creators, both professional and citizens, have been empowered by these changes – able to produce their own messages without needing to be a part of large news organizations. The State still exercises considerable control over media, but technology lets citizens push back against those controls, as we can see in many social movements around the world.

4. Your book talks about mediated reality – an unrealistic portrayal of the world that reinforces hegemonic systems of control. What are some examples of this?

Reese: Media representation has been a popular area of research, and I suppose the most common examples involve gender and race. For example, by depicting blacks as perpetrators of violent crime, beyond the actual patterns in crime statistics, the media reinforce negative views. Under-representing women in key roles, whether in entertainment content or as news sources, tends to marginalize them. When Fox News reportedly uses a “leg cam” to feature women on camera, it tends to sexualize their appearance more than men. Hegemonic just means that these patterns make the situation seem “natural” and taken for granted.

5. Which medium provides the most realistic perspective?

Reese: Each medium has its blind spots based on particular formats and traditions. Television is more realistic in being able to show and tell, but it’s been more often accused of sensationalism and emphasizing conflict than have newspapers. Time and space constraints inevitably impose their own limits, so the multimedia news platforms, in having much more of both, could be said to be more realistic – although of course this need not be the case depending on who’s in charge of it.

6. You say that concerns about journalistic autonomy have increased as the structures of media organizations have become more complex. Can you explain this?

Reese: Journalistic autonomy has been a long-standing concern for professionals. This concern became particularly acute when large media firms took on non-media enterprises, making it more difficult to not run afoul of some economic interest of the larger company. Now, the shifting business models for media mean that something is always being promoted, monetized, and sold in different ways than the traditional commercials and print advertising. So, how are economic interests impinging on journalistic work? It’s less clear than before and harder to identify.

7. What do you hope people take away from your book?

Reese: We hope that the book brings clarity to a complex field. With so many debates about media taking place outside of the scholarly realm, such as disputes over mainstream press bias, it’s important for people to have a framework for those discussions. For example, liberals generally put more emphasis on the reliance on official, institutional news sources and corporate influence as factors shaping media, while conservatives emphasize individual personal (allegedly liberal) bias in the mainstream media. Both have their points but often talk past each other because they’re operating out of different levels of analysis.

8. What future projects are you working on?

Reese: I’m working on a project that examines how transnational environmental NGOs produce journalism, and how that can be an important source of information internationally. News is happening in spite of the collapse of the traditional news models, just in different places.


This article by Laura J. Byerley was first published on the Moody College of Communication website on Feb. 12, 2014.

 

The Buck Stops Here

Global Shell GamesHit TV series like Breaking Bad demonstrate just how far criminals will go to conceal their piles of dirty money. But of all the countries in the world, these illicit activities are most easily carried out under the guise of shell companies right here in the United States.

A shell company is a business in name only, with no actual employees or products. It exists only on paper and can be set up within a matter of hours. They are the global getaway cars for criminals involved in money laundering, bribery, tax evasion, drug trafficking, and perhaps even terrorism, says Michael Findley, assistant professor of government.

To see just how far they could go to secure an untraceable shell company, Findley and his research team impersonated a range of criminals – from money launderers to terrorist financiers to drug traffickers. They made thousands of email solicitations to nearly 4,000 services in more than 180 countries around the world. Despite the glaring red flags signaling potential security threats, they were able to secure approval to set up untraceable shell companies online for as little as a few hundred dollars.

“On the whole, forming an anonymous shell company is as easy as ever in the United States, despite supposed increased attention following 9/11,” says Findley, who focuses much of his research on terrorism and counterterrorism.  “The results are disconcerting and demonstrate that we are much too far from a world that is safe from crime and terror.”

International laws mandate shell providers to require notarized photo identification from clients. Yet the researchers found almost half of the firms they solicited failed to ask for proper identification—and one fifth did not want any photo ID at all. The grim results are detailed in the authors’ new book, Global Shell Games: Experiments in Transnational Relations, Crime and Terrorism. Findley conducted the investigations with his co-authors Daniel Nielson, of Brigham Young University; Jason Sharman, of Griffith University; and their team of research assistants.

Michael Findley

Michael Findley is a political scientist in the Department of Government and co-director of Innovations for Peace and Development.

Among the top offenders is the United States. The findings show that Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming are some of the easiest places in the world to score an illicit shell operation. In fact, classic tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Jersey are much more compliant with transparency rules than the rich, powerful countries.

While shopping around the United States for anonymous shell companies, the researchers were able to seal the deal in less than three hours after trying about a dozen approaches. However, in so-called tax havens, it took more than double the time and effort.

Enforcement is not especially expensive, given that even tiny tax havens and developing countries are able to apply international standards on corporate transparency, The problem, Findley says, boils down to necessity.

“Tax havens have tightened up the standards much more vigorously than other places, partly because they have to,” Findley says. “They have to protect their incorporation industries and make sure they don’t fall out of favor in the international community. By tightening up their standards, perhaps by necessity, they make it possible to have this good business-operating environment.”

To fix the problem, Findley says shell company providers need to require proper ID from their clients, especially foreigners. But most importantly, regulators need to follow up with providers to make sure they’re up to code. Random audits requiring the information on the actual owners of shell corporations would not cost much and appear to make the difference for the most law-abiding countries. The laws need to be enforced at the international, national and state levels, Findley notes.

Until the United States and other countries in the elite Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) start playing by the rules, corruption will continue to run rampant all over the world.  Organized crime will flourish, drug cartels will run smoothly, and corrupt officials will live the life of luxury on stolen money, Findley says.

For example, former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych owned a presidential palace, a private zoo, a vintage car collection and many other luxuries thanks in part to anonymous shell companies, Findley says.

“I would like to see this type of leader go away,” Findley says. “What we have found here is not a silver bullet solution, but it is a very important part of the puzzle. Money drives corruption. If we could understand the money laundering process and take steps to track the real people in control of shell companies, it would be much more difficult for organized criminals and possibly terrorists to carry out their nefarious activities.”

Go to this website for more about the book: www.globalshellgames.com

Michener Center to Host Acclaimed Novelist Zadie Smith on March 27

The UT Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by acclaimed author Zadie Smith on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm in the Blanton Auditorium on UT campus. The reading is free, requires no tickets, and is open to students and the public, but seating is limited to 300.

Zadie Smith, born in London in 1975 to an English father and Jamaican mother, made a stunning literary debut in 2000 with White Teeth, which was praised internationally and won numerous first book awards. Her third novel, On Beauty, won the 2006 Orange Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker, and her latest, NW (for the London postcode area in which she was born and still resides), was named one of the New York Times’ Best Books of 2012. Granta magazine has twice listed her in its “20 Best Young British Novelists.” She divides her time between London and New York, where she on the Creative Writing faculty of NYU.

The Blanton Auditorium is located in the Edgar A. Smith Building in the Blanton Museum complex at MLK and Congress Avenue. Parking is available in the nearby Brazos garage.

The Secret Life of Magnum Photographs: American Studies Professor Offers an Inside Look at Some of the World’s Most Iconic Images

High above a blur of cars on a congested street in Lower Manhattan, a Chinese man sits atop a tiny fire escape sipping a bowl of noodles.

Surrounded by a concrete jungle of asphalt and high-rise buildings, the man is far from isolation. Yet somehow he appears to be very much alone and out of place.

shelflifestory_Sinn

This powerful portrayal of modern immigrant life —the cramped living space, the alienation, the absence of color and wide-open spaces – exquisitely captures the parallels between inward struggles and the outside world.

This 1996 photograph from Chien-Chi Chang’s China Town project is one of many iconic photographs in the massive Magnum Photos archive that evoke a sense of wonder and mystery about the world around us. While many of these prints are now valuable art commodities, they were originally intended for reproduction in publications around the world, says Steven Hoelscher, professor of American studies and geography at UT Austin. Continue reading